A question and invitation to researchers

Are there any researchers out there who can help me with this question: how do you research potential adoption of social media in memberships organisations if the people you are talking to may not understand what you are talking about?

One of the work packages for this project is "research", and as you can see here one of our partners, the NCVO Foresight team, have pulled together some resources, and also suggested how to develop a Guide.

Today I was at the RSA talking to our other partners about how we might find where organisations are at present in terms of use of social media, and then explore where they might go. Alongside this we could look at the changing nature of belonging, organising without organisations and so on.

My inclination is to develop  our membership game, and some other easy to use products and services, engage with potential users, prototype and evolve ... and tell that story as we go. 

On the other hand there may be other ways that are just as valid. The approach that we are adopting in this project is one of open collaboration, where anyone who has an idea for products, services or research can pitch in ... and we'll see how we can help pull ideas together and facilitate funding proposals. I'm delighted Steve Dale has done that with an offer of Community of Practice training.

I won't be leading on the research package, and don't think my partners at Ruralnet|UK will be either - so we are particularly open to ideas. 

What I'm not sure about is how to do any useful research with organisations unfamiliar with social media. It may not currently be part of their worldview. It may be a foreign country, a different language, as I discovered here.

Anyone with ideas - or even better, prepared to pitch in and help develop proposals?  Maybe my academic friends over at  PRADSA can help.


You have a number of

You have a number of challenges, starting with everyone having a different mental model and language. That needs sorting to begin with. I bet the PRADSA crew have got some excellent workshops, and have seen the Wilcox model first hand which is great.

Dan Dixon and I went a step earlier with the 'core' team behind a new community web app, and built a workshop around 'patterns' and 'pattern languages' - whereby we all related the business/organisation core to the 'emergent product'; defining the patterns which would be at the core of the offering (e.g. recommending, referring, introducing, etc.), and working out from there. This was refreshing as it helped the core team understand what they were working towards, gave them a common language, and something to communicate with the early community members (nothing worse than mixed messages going to the beta crowd).

The logic was to establish the fundamental patterns first - giving the core team and product its high level direction (no tech mentioned at all) - and placing the patterns in a roadmap, which would give the community members a framework within which to explore, evolve, experiment and communicate with the product developers. The power was therefore balanced between the members and producers of the product, if you know what i mean.

This has a risk for a traditional organisation who might prefer to keep decision-making authority over stuff rather than throw the key questions out to membership and facilitate rather than command and control it - I have witnessed rather defensive organisation HQs who prefer to make a decision on high and then stuff members into it; likewise I have witnessed emerging charities with this form of open engagement rooted into their DNA.

Maybe there are two types of organisation; one who prefer to keep control at HQ, and one who like to distribute ownership and responsibility of decisions around the membership. Perhaps that is the very first question to ask...

Patern language to refine the roadmap

Thanks Ed - is that the sort of workshop thay could be run both for a core group of this membership project, and also with organisations considering social media? Sounds like a product/service offering ...

making things simple and clear

Hi David, I use examples first and use terminology later, even in one sentence. if you can make a list of the terms then we may bne able t help you more.

re: making things clear and simple

Thanks Niki - can you say which terms are a problem?

In case it helps, there's an A-Z of social media, plus description of the game over here.


My tuppence worth

Hi David

Picked this up on the PRADSA list.

As you know Mark Walker (SCIP) and I used the game (translated) successfully in Hungary a few years ago. I think you're on the right track with the suggestions you outlined above. We've used these on the CNA project but have also used what we call Participatory Learning Workshops (PLWs).

PLWs provide spaces for contextualised learning of communication & network technologies. Context/s is/are provided by participants and relate to the community ecology in which they live, work and/or are active in. Particpants chose, through previous dialogue - usually some form of needs assessment and asset mapping - which technologies they wish to engage with initially. Workshops, which can be static (e.g. based in an ICT suite); mobile (using portable/mobile technologies); or scenario-based (participants collaborate in order to address a particular need - preferably identified by the community themselves), provide facilitated 'training' in which participants start to engage with their chosen technologies. Space is then provided for participants to reflect on what they've learnt and discuss how this might be applied within their own community contexts.

A brief intro to PLWs.

Hope this is of use/interest.



re: my tuppence worth

Hi Peter - that is terrifically useful.

If you would like to put PLWs forward as a useful methodology in looking at membership organisations - cetainly a community ecology - we could help you develop bids to funders. I can create a page on the site for you (and anyone else who has ideas)

Happy to collaborate on this

I'd like to develop PLWs as a methodology further. We're going to start with another set of them soon in West Hove.

Playing at research

I don't know your game (but I've obviously heard good reports) but I think it's a great way into finding out where people are as well as showing where they can go. What about extending its reach though through some sort of online format - maybe some simple accessible one like a text based adventure game. Something people could pick up and come back to. Being a bit of a word fan, count me in if you're looking at developing something.

re:playing at esearch

Thanks Paul - latest game thinking is here - could we translate online?